For anyone who's ever struggled to stay awake during a performance after they've eaten a good-sized meal, thereps a spot in Grand Center with an answer. Of course, it's good news, too for those of us who would rather have three different little dishes instead of one giant entree.
The Dark Room offers more services than that. There's an extensive wine list - so large, in fact, that the website puts the food offerings at the bottom of the wine list. They serve as a photography gallery. And they're offering live music, mostly but not exclusively jazz, many evenings. Some of the best seats in the house are at a broad counter that faces onto Grand, allowing for good people-watching, but there are tables as well, and a space that I suspect could be/might be/sometimes is used for dancing. Still, we're here for the food.
Maybe hummus is a cliche, but I consider it a blank canvas that can be graced or disgraced by the way it's handled. The Dark Room's full-flavored version uses smoked paprika to punch things up a little, pieces of roasted pepper resting atop the smooth mixture and the drizzle with good olive oil finishes things off. Wedges of warm, fresh pita came with it, and when we had used those all up, more arrived promptly upon our request. Some old vine Garnacha, rather uninteresting when it first arrived, opened up beautifully and made a great pairing with the hummus. It's available by the glass.
While the serving of hummus was generous, the entrees are more conservative in their relative size. The Catalan meatballs, five of them a little bigger than an inch in diameter and made of beef and pork, sport a chunky tomato sauce with garlic and almonds. The meatballs were moist and properly tender, the sauce pleasant and not overgarlicked, but one was grateful for the two slices of bread that came with it, since there are no vegetables or other starches on the plate. A nightly special of mushroom risotto was likewise restrained. Nevertheless, it was very good, very mushroomy with crispy mushrooms tumbled atop it and a few generous shards of cheese as well. The texture was nicely creamy, none of that rice-with-sauce business here. We're told the chef does a fine gnocchi but on this visit, none were ready yet.
The only semi-serious quibble was with the olive oil cake for dessert. The individual cakelet wore a very light glaze with a note of Grand Marnier. It was drier than olive oil cakes usually are, but that was remedied with the scoop of slightly citrusy sour cream that came alongside. The most charming thing on the plate, however was a fat slice of an orange that had been sprinkled with sugar and slid under a broiler long enough to melt and caramelize the sugar, just as is done with a creme brulee.
Service was attentive without hovering, and the server knew the menu well. This spot can be a boon to all kinds of people.
The Dark Room
615 N. Grand
Dinner Tues.-Sat., and Sundays "during high theater season"
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good
Starters & Entrees: $8-$15